If you’re in the US and tell someone that you are from Washington they might assume that you mean the state but it could easily be the nation’s capital or about 25 other cities, towns, mounts, and ports around the country. According to the post office, if you address a letter to Springfield without including the state name, they will have a choice of 41 locations where it could be delivered. Last Sunday our neighbors asked us to go with them to a festival in Villelongue which we had to look up in a mapping program to see how long the car ride might be. Since there are a dozen towns or villages in France with that name, we hoped they had chosen the one about 45 minutes south of Carcassonne.
The river Aude flows through this part of the country and we cross over it a couple of times each day walking to and from the market, the bakery, or some other part of the main town. Soon after we got into the car to head to the festival, I was relieved to see a sign pointing to Villelongue d’Aude which meant we weren’t too far from the destination. Although the vineyards that fill the countryside here make it apparent that this is definitely wine country, the fields of bright yellow sunflowers we passed made it equally apparent that we live in the south of France.
The population of Villelongue is around 300 and I think the entire village showed up for the festival along with lots of other guests like us. Once the car was parked we walked up the narrow medieval lanes to the hilltop square where the colorful festivities were well underway. First we passed by tables of honey, sausages, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables from local farmers. Our goal, however, was one level higher where bright umbrellas had been set out to shade the tables underneath where we would later dine on fideuà, a fresh seafood dish similar to paella, but for this local Catalan version, served over pasta instead of rice.
Since we were a short distance from Limoux, the French town where sparkling wine got its start in the early 1500s, we were pleased to share with our tablemates a couple of bottles of bubbly crémant made from the grapes grown in the vineyards we could see surrounding the village. Adding to the festive atmosphere was a jazz group where the lead singer played an instrument we had never seen before called a Chapman Stick. It sounds like a guitar but doesn’t have the usual rounded bottom and, according to the singer, can also be used for rock and blues with the advantage of being easily carried. Our neighbors have invited us to return with them to the village’s next festival in two weeks and I’m certain we’ll be going along.